By Peh Yuxin, Account Executive, The Hoffman Agency Singapore
Interactive infographics and documentaries are powerful new forms of news communication in the digital era, and news outlets are starting to recognize their reach and relevance. International news outlets have been regularly producing digital interactive projects — award-winning examples include The New York Times’ Snowfall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek and The Guardian’s Seven Digital Deadly Sins. Here in Singapore, our top national daily, The Straits Times, recently created an interactive 360-degree look into the most common cancers plaguing Singaporeans, allowing visitors to find out all they need to know about the top 10 cancers in Singapore through the visual structure of the human body.
Similarly, the craft of public relations (PR) is no longer limited to just the written and spoken word. People are increasingly craving content that provides more than a visual experience. In the hyper-connected and reactive digital sphere, there is a heightened expectation for interaction. People are no longer simply passively consuming content, but they are taking on the role of a participant by providing their opinions or interacting with content through selectable plotlines.
Furthermore, in the battle against information avalanches, PR practitioners simply cannot sit around and wait for their target audience to pick up on their key messages. It is time to think beyond the confines of traditional PR: they have to evolve from one-way linear communication into the engaging two-way communication in the work that they do.
Just as traditional text stories take on a new form in the newsroom, text in the PR world can be enhanced and embellished with interactivity, putting the action squarely in the hands of our target audience.
For example, instead of the traditional written fact sheet, use an interactive infographic or video that showcases your client’s business or their latest product. By shaping their own narrative, laymen can create an all-around experience that engages their visual, audio and tactile senses and, more importantly, enhance their sense of participation.
Following Benjamin Franklin’s creed of “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn,” participation not only allows better understanding of information, it also provides a sense of ownership and gives value to the content. This personable relationship is essentially what PR practitioners strive to achieve between their clients and content consumers on a daily basis.
In the interactive infographic How Search Works, Google successfully condensed technical jargon into comprehended content made up of attractive visuals and bite-sized information. As viewers scroll downwards, they are given a step-by-step explanation of Google’s search technology, and they can click on the various components to reveal more insights and interesting trivia. There is success in this piece as visitors understand and retain important messages better through the engaging elements, as compared to a typical text-based press release.
In fact, there are so many different ways to use interactivity. Become a facilitator of opinions like in Worry Box Project, create a digital game like Journey to the End of Coal or immerse him or her in another person’s shoes like in Invisible Picture Show. These are merely a few of the many possibilities that PR practitioners can adopt.
Furthermore, there are several existing and upcoming technologies that equip everyday individuals with the digital tools needed to create interactive elements. YouTube has been actively expanding the use of virtual reality on its site, with the introduction of the 360-degree video feature and a format to provide a virtual reality video viewing experience. Facebook’s Oculus Rift is another example of a virtual reality technology, which allows for a complete immersive experience that could further transform the impact of interactivity in time to come.
While there is endless potential in the sphere of interactivity, it is crucial that PR practitioners avoid pursuing interactivity blindly. For interactivity to be incorporated well into the craft of PR, not only should practitioners think about the impact they wish to create, they should also have to consider their content and target audience. The balance in control over content between owner and participants should be carefully maintained for the interactive measures to be successful.